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Free Study Guide-The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER 3

Summary

Taylor stayed to help at the Broken Arrow Motor Lodge through the Christmas holidays. Business at the lodge picked up due to people passing through on their way to somewhere outside Oklahoma. During this time Taylor came up with the name Turtle for the child, who would grip on to things tightly and not let go. Turtle did not yet speak but knew her name "about as well as a cat ever does."

Taylor was happy when she and the child were back on the road. Upon reaching Arizona she delighted in the pink clouds and humorous rock formations. She decided that Arizona was the place to live. Just outside of Tucson it began to hail and Taylor took shelter from the ice and cold under the covered area of what appeared to be an old gas station. The sun appeared before the hail stopped and with it a beautiful double rainbow over the mountains. The temperature then became hot. Taylor marveled at the extremes of Arizona. She push started her car and, just as the engine caught, realized she’d driven over broken glass and had a flat tire.

She drove a few blocks and ended up at Jesus Is Lord Used Tires. The owner, a woman in blue jeans and cowboy boots named Mattie, pointed out that Taylor had two flats and since they couldn’t be patched, offered to replace them for $65. Commenting that it was too early for bad news, Mattie invited Taylor in for coffee. Mattie’s place was a bit unsettling for Taylor because of the tires, "all of them bulging to burst." Inside, Turtle sat in the center of a flat tire and had peanut butter crackers and apple juice, courtesy of Mattie, while Taylor and Mattie got acquainted. Two men stopped by, one for an alignment, the other a priest. The first man stayed while Mattie, to Taylor’s amazement, serviced his car. The priest, who seemed nervous, said he would come back later. Finally, Taylor confessed apologetically that she hadn’t the money for the tires, to which Mattie responded, "I wasn’t trying to make a sale. I just thought you two needed some cheering up." Mattie then led Taylor through the building and out the back door to an incredible garden of flowers and vegetables sprouting in and around old auto parts. She pointed out bean plants, grown from seeds the Chinese lady next door had brought over in 1907. The plants were completely purple: stems, leaves, flowers and pods.


Taylor and Turtle left Mattie’s and took up residence in the Hotel Republic. Living in the hustle of downtown was a strange experience for Taylor. She describes the workers, prostitutes, homeless people and collection of snooty artists from the neighborhood as a dramatic contrast to Pittman County.

Nearby there was a restaurant called Burger Derby where Taylor met a waitress named Sandi who told Taylor that working there for $3.25 an hour plus meals was "fantastic". Sandi left her own son at Kid Central Station, a place in the mall where children were looked after while their parents shopped, and rushed over to check on him during her breaks. She suggested that Taylor take a job at Burger Derby and do the same with Turtle.

Notes

The author returns to first person here indicating that Taylor is the narrator of this chapter. There are few transitions between paragraphs giving the feeling that Taylor is just telling her story casually and it is up to the reader to follow along. Many colloquial expressions are used, along with some poor grammar, but the meaning is always crystal clear, enriching our understanding of Taylor’s character.

Two new characters are introduced in this chapter, one major, one minor. Mattie, the owner of Jesus Is Lord Used Tires, like Taylor, is a capable woman who becomes a major influence in Taylor’s story. Though Mattie is older, she and Taylor share their relaxed attitude and acceptance of the world. We sense, however that Mattie surpasses Taylor in that she is able to handle not only her own problems but the problems of others as well. Sandi, on the other hand, resembles Taylor on the surface only. She and Taylor are both young, unmarried, and they each have a child. Sandi is different than Taylor though because rather than attempt to control her situation, Sandi lets life happen to her. Taylor is more of a decision maker and in her sassy way chooses what she will let life hand her.

With a peek into Mattie’s garden, this chapter gives the reader a first glimpse at the theme of everyday miracles; the idea that would be empty places can be surprising resources.

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